A Night at Badouzi

From the bus stop, it’s a steep 2km trek up the same road the cars take. I get to the top around 3pm, slightly later than I wanted to in order to get a read on the sunset and pick a spot for picture purposes, but yet at a perfect time because it’s the pre-sunset stage where you can feel a yellowy-orange presence arising, and the world seems to be in high-contrast mode. The first thing I see when getting to the top is this:

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A bunch of couples are hanging out in the shadows of Wangyou Valley below. I continue on to the coast, and even though we’ve only been apart one day, I greet it like we haven’t seen each other in years. The view is so pretty while walking up and down different sets of stairs, trying to enjoy the warm breeze but also find a good spot to set up the camera. It’s overwhelmingly large – there are plenty of good spots at tops of hills, at valleys, looking at ridges, looking at ports. There are also lots of people since it’s the weekend.

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There are so many options for picture-taking. I’m not a scientist or a light expert, and I have no idea how the coast will be affected by the light. I just take what the sky, mountains, and water give me, which can vary widely. I think this spot will be good:

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There are hundreds of mosquitoes, and I’m wearing my salmon shorts sitting next to some high grass. I can still smell the citronella on my skin, but they don’t seem to care.

I watch the boats millimetering forward, entering and leaving the port. Fishermen and women stand on the edge of the rock structures below, and couples take pictures behind me. Some people come up and talk to me. They’re very nice here.

Where am I supposed to look? What am I supposed to see? I don’t know.

Here comes the sunset.

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The spot I chose is alright, but I look left just a bit. This is what I was looking for.

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For just a few moments, there is but one definite place to focus my eyes. I get up. The hill we strange little creatures are standing on is no longer attached to the earth, and we’re collectively part of something much bigger. The surreal skies overwhelm us as we look up in awe. The people standing next to me have a discussion about school.

I keep moving the camera left, west, following the color. Even though it’s unexpected and there are people in the picture (which I almost always avoid), I get some nice shots and enjoy it. Maybe I’m too obsessed with sunsets over coasts.

Pretty skies at Badouzi

Meanwhile, back at my spot…

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The event in the sky only lasts a minute or two, and people start to leave. But I’m staying. Even though I’m without phone service on top of a hill far from transportation, I’m determined to conquer the night, if the mosquitoes don’t eat every square inch of my arms and legs first…

The darkness welcomes me. Some boats turn on their bright lights, and I mess around with some more pictures.

_mg_8570After the sun sets at Badouzi

I stay another hour, until I can no longer see my hand and nearly everyone is gone. I stand in the middle of the black valley, stopping again for a few minutes, looking at the ships and the stars, wishing I could stay here all night.

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I want more of this. I hope to discover as much of Taiwan’s natural beauty as I can, because exploring makes me happy.

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Jump

Image

The sign reads:

HAZARDOUS CLIFFS

DO NOT ENTER

Of course, I enter. To be fair, judging by the way the metal fence is bent, plenty of other people have had the same idea.

I walk on what resembles a path through the ice plants and climb over rocks. At the end of the path is a narrow stony overhang that juts into the sea. I slowly approach the edge and observe the jagged rocks a hundred feet below. A small lighthouse can be seen in the distance.

I’m suddenly frightened, but of what? I used to be afraid of heights just like plenty of other people, but lately, I’ve been fearless, and I have sought out the adrenaline rush – being so much closer to death makes me feel that much more alive. On this occasion, however, the fear is taking over.

The wind roars. The giant waves crash against the rocks; some of the spray makes it all the way up to where I stand. Not a soul is in sight. It’s just me and the ocean and this cliff. I take a few pictures of the beauty, then I put the camera aside. I move a few steps closer to the edge. I’m one foot, one loose rock, one gust of wind, one startling noise, one slight push away from falling to my death. These are all cause for concern, but there is a much greater fear looming from somewhere else.

The things I mentioned are all external, and I have little control over them. What I’m really afraid of is within me. I’m afraid I will momentarily lose my senses; I’m afraid, for an instant, that I will not be able to understand what it means to be alive, that I will no longer know how to differentiate between right and wrong, that I will stop being human and abandon my ability to reason in the face of overwhelming curiosity.

At first I was standing still, but now I’m disoriented – dizziness starts to take over. The ocean turns into a vortex; the waves begin spiraling faster and faster, and my eyes follow the circle religiously. I’m hypnotized, I’m entranced, I’m under a spell that is increasingly hard to resist. A powerful concerto commences. I find myself swaying to the wave’s rhythm like the buoy in the distant surf. Earth’s gravitational pull increases. My body is twice as heavy, and the weight shifts to my head and torso, leaving me dangerously unbalanced. The vortex is now a magnetic field. The music speeds out of control, prestissimo. The spinning sea leaves me paralyzed and intoxicated, and I am drawn in without a fight. Darkness surrounds me. Consciousness evaporates into nothingness.

I open my eyes and gasp for air, dumbfounded and terrified.

I jump backwards and try to regroup, but I am too shaken up to move from the solid ground I am now on.

No, it’s not falling I am afraid of; it’s jumping.

I’m afraid not of a deliberate jump but rather an unconscious one. A fall caused by myself, a completely different version of me, an outsider unaware of the impending danger.

After a deep sigh, I walk up to the marked trail and take a quick glance back at the rock I was just standing on.

In the crashing waves of the ocean below, I saw my life. I am afraid to give up control and awareness of my surroundings. I am afraid I won’t be able to remain at a distance. I am afraid once I enter, I won’t be able to escape. The world is trying to guide me, but I keep resisting. I prefer to guide myself, even if it is random and chaotic. The lighthouse directly in front of me adds irony to the situation.

It’s like the feeling you get when your body is telling you to sleep, but you fight hard to stay awake, except my body is telling me to wake up, and I am fighting hard to stay asleep.

What scares me is unrelated to any literal oceans or cliffs. There are many things that frighten me in the world, but for some reason, the thing that scares me most is living my own life.

One of these days, that other version of me – the fearless, wild side not worried by the sheer height of the cliff or the sharp rocks below – will step in, and I will have the courage to wake up and take the plunge.